STILLWATER, Okla. – Before Arkansas baseball left for its NCAA Tournament regional, coach Dave Van Horn said his main concern was his team’s mentality.
The Razorbacks’ season didn’t end the way they wanted as they lost six of their last eight games, including back-to-back conference series losses and an 0-2 SEC Tournament appearance. Arkansas fell out of contention to host a regional for the first time since 2017.
The Razorbacks looked in need of a morale boost, but Van Horn has noted that his team doesn’t respond to a “rah-rah” motivational approach. After Arkansas’ practice at Oklahoma State’s O’Brate Stadium on Thursday, however, Van Horn had settled on a message.
“This is a new season,” Van Horn said. “It’s all right there in front of us. Our thing is, it doesn’t matter any more what we did. … Who cares? That’s the way I look at it. That was then; this is now.”
The idea of the postseason as a new season is a classic coach-ism, but Arkansas needs to buy into it. If Arkansas is going to make a run in the tournament, it needs to be much better than it was down the stretch. It starts when the Razorbacks, the No. 2 seed in the Stillwater regional, open the postseason on Friday (noon CT, SECN) against No. 3-seed Grand Canyon.
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Part of the frustration around Arkansas baseball stemmed from preseason expectations. The Razorbacks were ranked No. 4 in the preseason coaches poll and projected as the No. 2 overall seed in the tournament by D1Baseball.
But Van Horn made it clear that those expectations came from outside the program.
“I don’t feel like the team felt a lot of pressure,” he said. “We never really talked about winning the (SEC) West. We didn’t talk about winning the overall (conference). We just talked about playing good that day.”
To help the team reset after its early exit from the SEC Tournament, Van Horn gave the team two days off after its return. Players had the option to come to the facility and lift or get some light work in.
From the players’ perspective, the rest was necessary to reset the team’s mentality and expectations for the postseason.
“It’s a long season,” senior pitcher Connor Noland said. “You need a little time to relax, kick your feet up, whatever helps. We’re ready and have our feet back under us.”
As for the high expectations and a quiet end to the regular season, Noland echoed Van Horn’s sentiment: It’s a new season.
“We have a new opportunity here,” Noland said. “Nobody cares about what happened. Baseball is baseball. Stuff goes bad, stuff goes good … You get to write your own story from here on out.”
Christina Long covers the Arkansas Razorbacks. You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @ christinalong00.